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The new year brings some promising news for tenants economically slammed by the pandemic in New York: another shot for an extended rent relief for tens of thousands.
How Did It Happen?
In December, Cuomo said he would sign an executive order expanding the eligibility criteria for the rent relief program so more of the 1.2 million New Yorkers who are at risk of eviction could qualify for the money.
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On Dec. 18, Cuomo issued an executive order addressing COVID-19 relief laws. That followed an announcement from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the agency charged with distributing the state’s rent relief funds, making more tenants eligible for the program, and reopening its application window from Dec. 18 through Feb. 1.
Does the extended Rent Relief include undocumented immigrants?
Tenants without legal status who don’t live with anyone in their household with any kind of legal status — like children who are U.S. citizens or those with green cards — still don’t qualify for the extended rent relief program. Advocates say that excludes some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers who already don’t qualify for most other forms of aid. Studies estimate that nearly 200,000 undocumented workers in the city have lost income during the pandemic.
How does the extended rent relief work?
Ideally, it means that more New Yorkers will qualify for the rent relief program and will receive a payment to cover a portion of their rent costs for the first months of the pandemic.
The relief program does not cover full back rent owed. It can supplement part of a household’s income for the months of April to July 2020 to keep a tenant’s rent burden the same.
So if you were paying 30% of your income toward rent before the pandemic, but you lost a lot of that income, the state will pay the difference to ensure you did not have to pay more than 30% of your reduced income toward rent for April through July 2020. (Yes, it’s complicated.)
You don’t have to reapply
The requirements to qualify changed slightly, so some people who were originally denied may now be approved. According to a DHCR spokesperson, the agency will be re-evaluating every that application was denied or is in the appeal process to see whether those households now qualify for relief. All told, DHCR officials are reconsidering some 79,000 applications.
This means: If you were denied, you shouldn’t have to reapply.
Should you apply if you didn’t before?
If you wanted to apply but missed the original three-week application window over the summer, you now have until Feb. 1. You can apply here or call 1-833-499-0318.
If you didn’t know this program existed, weren’t sure you qualified or determined you didn’t and skipped applying, here’s what you should know:
The new rules no longer require tenants to have been “rent burdened” before the pandemic. In the original version of the rent relief program, you had to show you were paying more than 30% of your income toward your rent before March 1 to qualify for the relief. If you were “rent burdened” between April 1 and July 31, 2020, you could qualify.
The rest of the original requirements remain in place, and all of the documentation that was needed to apply the first time is still required, according to a DHCR spokesperson.
The full requirements are:
- You must be a renter with a primary residence in New York State.
- You must have lost income between April 1 and July 31, 2020.
- Before March 7, your household income must have been at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (look at page 7 of this document to see where you fit on).
- You must have been rent burdened between April 1 and July 31, 2020.
Edward Josephson, director of litigation for Legal Services NYC, said: “It’s worth it to apply. This debt is a real burden, and getting four months of partial rent is more than nothing.”
A few other things changed…
- Tenants who are unable to or uncomfortable with applying online can do so over the phone, according to a DHCR spokesperson. Before if you couldn’t apply online, you had to send in a paper form through the mail. You can call 1-833-499-0318. You can also call this same number for translation services or if you have any other questions about your application.
- DHCR will update renters who applied online about the status of their application via email, including folks who were denied previously.
- Lastly, this time around, the payments will be made on a rolling basis as soon as DHCR receives and verifies all of the needed documentation from tenants and landlords, instead of waiting until after the application period closes.
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